Water conservation isn’t difficult

If we used more of the water from our taps to drink and reduced waste at home we would be more serious about our local water supply.

In one way we take water far too seriously: kids with water bottles on their desks, people swigging water earnestly everywhere, designer waters in restaurants, water coolers in businesses, truckloads of bottles of water for outdoor events, all these are a phenomenon of the 21st century, supported by dubious science.

There is no substance to the statement that every adult needs eight glasses of water a day, yet the anxiety to hydrate is all around us.

I don’t buy the argument that it’s good to see bottled water replacing soft drinks and maybe sometimes even the ubiquitous go-cup of coffee.

My question is whether, as individuals, we know what our bodies need and when. I like plain water. I drink it with meals and between meals when I am thirsty.

In another way we are not taking water seriously enough. We get warnings from scientists, activists, officials, that water is becoming scarce in this wasteful world. Vancouver Island as a bioregion is over-populated with three-quarters of a million people and we Canadians are the worst wasters of water in the world, except for the United States.

Our water comes from taps which deliver water from aquifers. If we all drank the water from our taps we would start to look at our water differently. If we were no longer drinking somebody else’s water, bottled for free in B.C. by wealthy corporations, we would probably take more interest in protecting our local aquifers.

The story is not all bad. A groundwater study is getting under way at Vancouver Island University in order to get some specific answers to questions about the state of our aquifers. The study is funded by the RBC Blue Water Project, the Real Estate Foundation of B.C. and the Regional District of Nanaimo, all of whom deserve recognition for putting money to good use.

Given that only about three per cent of potable (drinkable) water we use actually goes into our bodies, we Canadians ought to be thinking about what we are doing with the precious stuff coming out of our taps. In summer months, 50 per cent of domestic use goes to watering lawns. Inside homes, 35 per cent of what we use goes into baths and showers, 30 per cent to toilets flushed with too much water (you can get a healthy rebate from the RDN for replacements), 20 per cent is used for laundry, 10 per cent for kitchen and drinking and five per cent for cleaning.

Industrial uses (60 per cent of freshwater) are a whole other story. Think tar sands, nuclear plant coolants, paper and allied products, chemicals, and primary metals.

But if we used more of the water from our taps to drink and reduced waste at home we would be more serious about our local water supply and help improve our national performance.

Marjorie Stewart is board chair of the Nanaimo Foodshare Society. She can be reached at: marjorieandalstewart@shaw.ca.